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Memories of the Civil War and Slavery

McKinley Serving Hot Coffee To His Regiment In the Thickest of the Battle at Antietam.
from Lives of McKinley and Hobart.

In the decades after the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865), Republicans were often accused of 'waving the bloody shirt'--reminding voters of Southern secession, and urging them to vote for the party of the Union and Lincoln. These appeals held enormous appeals to those who had made great sacrifices in the Union war effort: veterans, including men still suffering from injuries and diseases contracted in the Army; those who had lost husbands, sons, and fathers; former nurses and volunteers; Southern African-Americans emancipated by the war; and Northerners, black and white, who had sought to abolish slavery.

Former Confederates, of course, dismissed such appeals, as did many Americans who emphasized 'sectional reconciliation' between North and South. And Americans who wanted to move on to new issues argued that, by 1896, the war had been over for decades, and Republicans were failing to develop new ideas and initiatives to meet the nation's changing needs.

Not surprisingly, veterans played a major role in the campaign and McKinley's status as a veteran was widely stressed in the Republican press. He was, in fact, the first Republican president since Lincoln who was not a former Union General (being young, he had only attained the rank of Major before the war's end). The ghost of Lincoln appeared in a number of cartoons; Populists and Socialists as well as Republicans often sought to claim his legacy of federal activism.

Images of slavery appeared in many cartoons during the campaign. The plight of African-Americans, however, and the growing problems of race prejudice, disfranchisement of black voters, Jim Crow segregation, and lynching, received almost no attention from white voters and the mainstream press. Rather, 'slavery' served most often as a metaphor for the plight of the white working-class--or in Republican cartoons, for Bryan's proposed 'sale' of the national credit. Republicans also branded the so-called 'anarchy plank' in the Chicago Platform a sign of secession sentiment among Democrats, who counted many white Southern supporters.

Cleveland (O.), Oct. 19--The Union generals who are speaking for McKinley made a lively trip through Ohio today. Leaving Canton at 8 o'clock, the first stop was at New Philadelphia, where speeches were made to a large and enthusiastic crowd.... The special train ran to Steubenville. Gen. Sickles made the chief speech to a big meeting. The potters turned out at East Liverpool to greet the party and much enthusiasm was displayed. At Youngstown there was the largest meeting of the day. Gen. Howard made the principal speech, and was loudly applauded.

The next stop was at Warren. The train arrived there two hours late, but the big audiences which had assembled in Central Armory waited patiently until the old soldiers arrived, and gave them a great ovation. —Los Angeles Times, 20 October 1896.


Power Wrested from Her by the Sword Restored Through an Aliance with the West.

—St. Louis Globe-Democrat on the results of the Chicago Democratic Convention, 12 July 1896

The Chicago platform of the Democratic party seeks to interfere with private contracts and to revive the old doctrine of State resistance to Federal authority.... If these men know what they are doing they certainly intend to reorganize the institutions of this country. Should they be elected and attempt to carry out this plan, they will find no less than 4,000,000 to 5,000,000 armed soldiers to resist it. We will do as men did in 1861. We asked simply then that the constitution which Washington and others framed should be preserved, and we are going to defend it now. If nothing else will do them, we will defend it as we did in 1861-1865, and there are men who will bring Mr. Bryan and his cohorts in as prisoners of war as they did Jefferson Davis. —Ex-U.S. Senator J. B. Henderson (Gold Democrat), speech in Wilmington, Del., 19 October 1896, reprinted in St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 30 October 1896

Not since 1860 have the platforms of the contending parties presented an issue so signally made, so clearly and sharply defined. There is no occasion for mistake, no chance for deception.... The platform is silver, the candidate is silver. —Leadville Herald-Democrat, Colorado, in The Daily News, Denver, 11 July 1896

The issue in many parts of the South is ... the right to life itself, so bitter is the feeling of the old Democracy against these upstarts from the despised masses of the whites. The line between the old Democracy and Populism in the South is largely a line of bloody graves. When the convention decided to endorse Bryan without asking for any pledge from the Democrats for the protection of the Populists one of its most distinguished members, a member of Congress, well known throughout the country, turned to me and said: "this may cost me my life. I can return home only at that risk. The feeling of the Democracy against us is one of murderous hate. I have been shot at many times. Grand juries will not indict our assailants. Courts give us no protection." —Henry Demorest Lloyd, "The Populists at St. Louis," Review of Reviews, September 1896

The plutocracy has once more usurped control of the Government.... Once more the millionaires of the country are in the field openly asserting that property has a divine right to rule manhood and that it is treason to deny it.... The issue against African slavery was never so vital nor so sharply defined as this. —St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 13 September 1896

Whereas, Our distinguished comrade, William McKinley, has been honored by the Republican party with the nomination for president of the United States; therefore,

Resolved, That we, the Union Veteran's Patriotic League of Seattle, including in its membership sons of veterans, extend to him our hearty congratulations on the high honor conferred upon him by his nomination to the highest office in the gift of the American people; and,

Resolved, further, That we pledge to him our united support and our votes to elect him to that high office, and we earnestly call on all our comrades and their sons wherever they may be, to stand by Comrade McKinley with us in the present struggle for the nation's honor and credit, as in the past we stood shoulder to shoulder in defense of the nation's unity and integrity in the great war of the rebellion. —Published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10 September 1896

The same principles that made me a Republican in the early days, have today made me a Populist, and I'll tell you what they are. I remember when I was a little boy my parents were the old line abolition kind of people that believed in equal rights to all and special privileges to none. . . . We took a little paper called Uncle Lucas Child's paper, and one side of the paper bore a motto about the size of a coin in the centre of a picture--a picture of an African slave with his hands uplifted and in chains, and around the rim of the coin a motto, "Am I not a man and Brother?" That made a wonderful impression on my mind. I was taught thus in my infancy . . . to stand for the weak against the strong, for God knows the strong can take of themselves. And I say now, it is the duty of government to protect the weak.

. . . I believe, and I say it freely, that the working men and women of this country, many of them, are simply today in the shackles of industrial slavery. —Lorenzo Lewelling (Populist Governor of Kansas), speech at Huron Place, Kansas, 26 July 1894

Cartoons on this Site Making Reference to the Civil War and Union Veterans...

  • July 11: Harper’s Weekly: Gold Bugs
  • Aug 29: Harper’s Weekly: McKinley the Veteran
  • Sept 6: L.A. Times: Comrades in Arms
  • Sept 24: L.A. Times: Resurrecting Secession
  • Oct 6: Pioneer Press: Silver Conversation
  • Oct 22: Sound Money: The Old Party Scale
  • Oct 28: Puck: A New Civil War
  • Oct 31: New York Journal: Buncombe Brigade

... and to Slavery

  • Aug 5: Rocky Mountain News: The Plain English of It
  • Sept 26: L.A. Times: For Sale
  • Oct 15: Coxey's Sound Money: Uncle Sam Enslaved

African-American soldiers burying bodies of fellow soldiers who had died in the battle of Cold Harbor, Virginia, the year before. White soldiers and Southern civilians often refused to bury black soldiers whose bodies were left on the field. Taken by John Reekie, 1865. From the Library of Congress American Memory website.

African-American soldiers burying bodies of fellow soldiers who had died in the battle of Cold Harbor, Virginia, the year before. White soldiers and Southern civilians often refused to bury black soldiers whose bodies were left on the field. Taken by John Reekie, 1865. From the Library of Congress American Memory website.

© 2010 Rebecca Edwards, author of New Spirits: Americans in the Gilded Age, 1865-1905 by Rebecca Edwards, Oxford University Press

click a pic to learn more

Major events of the campaign,
in cartoon and story. (Click date)

  • Feb 27: People’s Advocate: Reading Tillman's Speech
  • Mar 19: People’s Advocate: Pitchfork
  • Apr 4: The Ram’s Horn: Rescued
  • Apr 15: Sound Money: History Repeats Itself
  • Apr 25: The Ram’s Horn: The Stranger at Our Gate
  • May 28: Prohibitionist’s convention, Pittsburgh, PA
  • June 16: Republican convention, St. Louis, MO
  • June 21: Denver New Road: Cleveland's Romance
  • June 28: L.A. Times: Bucking a Wall
  • July 4: Socialist convention, New York, NY
  • July 11: Democratic convention, Chicago, Illinois
  • July 9: Rocky Mountain News: A Soliloquy
  • July 11: Harper’s Weekly: Gold Bugs
  • July 12: L.A. Times: The Old Lady and Her New Wheel
  • July 16: People’s Advocate: McKinley's Evil Sprit
  • July 18: Harper’s Weekly: Altgeld and Bryan
  • July 22: Silver convention, St. Louis, MO
  • July 25: People’s Party convention, St. Louis, MO
  • July 22: Rocky Mountain News: Wall Street's Private Studio
  • July 25: Harper’s Weekly: Farmer McKinley
  • July 25: Judge: The Silver Candle
  • July 27: Chicago Record: Bryan's Tightrope
  • Aug 5: Rocky Mountain News: The Plain English of It
  • Aug 6: Sound Money: Spain and Rothschilds
  • Aug 8: McKinley accepts Republican nomination
  • Aug 9: Denver New Road: Bryan's Romance
  • Aug 12: Bryan accepts Democratic nomination
  • Aug 13: American Non-Conformist: Farmer Hanna
  • Aug 15: Rocky Mountain News: Bryan the Lion
  • Aug 16: L.A. Times: Aesop's Fox
  • Aug 18: Rocky Mountain News: Hanna the Wizard
  • Aug 20: Sound Money: The Cross of Gold
  • Aug 20: L.A. Times: Popocratic Witches
  • Aug 22: The Ram’s Horn: A Double Burden
  • Aug 29: Harper’s Weekly: McKinley the Veteran
  • Aug 29: Labor Advocate: Look at This
  • Aug 30: St. Louis Globe Democrat: Dime Museum
  • Sept 2: National (Gold) Democratic convention, Indianapolis, IN
  • Sept to Nov 1: McKinley front-porch campaign, Canton, OH
  • Sept 3: New York Journal: Li Hung Chang
  • Sept 5: Harper’s Weekly: The Crown of Thorns
  • Sept 5: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Just the Bare Facts
  • Sept 6: L.A. Times: Comrades in Arms
  • Sept 6: St. Paul Pioneer Press: A Bryan Dollar
  • Sept 8: Early election day in Arkansas and Vermont
  • Sept 9: Rocky Mountain News: John Bull
  • Sept 10: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Arkansas and Vermont
  • Sept 11 to Nov 1: Bryan travels 13,000 miles by train, stump-speaking around the nation.
  • Sept 11: St. Paul Pioneer Press: The Divorcee
  • Sept 11: St. Louis Globe Democrat: Uncle Sam Diagnoses
  • Sept 12: Labor Advocate: Their Argument Misses Fire
  • Sept 12: The Ram’s Horn: Building Up His Business
  • Sept 12: Harper’s Weekly: Populist Supreme Court
  • Sept 12: New York Journal: Hanna's Funds
  • Sept 13: Boston Globe: The Silver Dog
  • Sept 13: L.A. Times: Uncle Sam's Circus
  • Sept 14: L.A. Times: Populist Pandora
  • Sept 14: Rocky Mountain News: Playing Upon a Single String
  • Sept 17: Rocky Mountain News: Chinese Immigration
  • Sept 18: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Against Turkey
  • Sept 18: Rocky Mountain News: A Horrible Suspicion
  • Sept 19: Judge: Bryan's Cross
  • Sept 19: Labor Advocate: How They Love The Farmers
  • Sept 19: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Election-Year Friend
  • Sept 20: Boston Globe: Writ of Replevin'
  • Sept 20: L.A. Times: Populist Delilah
  • Sept 20: L’Abeille de Nouvelle Orleans: The Sultan Laughs
  • Sept 20: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: John Bull's Theft
  • Sept 21: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: The Robber And His Victim
  • Sept 24: L.A. Times: Resurrecting Secession
  • Sept 24: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Treachery
  • Sept 25: Daily Inter-Ocean: Democratic Jonah
  • Sept 26: Harper’s Weekly: Silver Bullfight
  • Sept 26: L.A. Times: For Sale
  • Sept 26: National Reflector: Rings On The Hog
  • Sept 26: Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Bicyclist Bryan
  • Sept 29: L.A. Times: Poor Circulation
  • Oct 1: Pioneer Press: Silver Trust Hog
  • Oct 3: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Workingman's Friend
  • Oct 4: Raleigh New and Observer: Hanna and Dixon
  • Oct 6: Election Day in the state of Florida (not all states voted on the first Tuesday in Nov).
  • Oct 6: Chicago Times: X-Ray of Bryan's Brain
  • Oct 6: Pioneer Press: Silver Conversation
  • Oct 6: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Florida's Lifeline
  • Oct 8: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Democratic Florida
  • Oct 8: New York Journal: Confident Hanna
  • Oct 10: Harper’s Weekly: Three Witches
  • Oct 10: The Coming Nation: The Worker's Treadmill
  • Oct 11: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Resurrection
  • Oct 13: New York Journal: Hanna and Workers
  • Oct 13: St. Louis Globe Democrat: Bryan as Jack Cade
  • Oct 13: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: The Gold Balloon
  • Oct 15: Coxey's Sound Money: Uncle Sam Enslaved
  • Oct 15: Rocky Mountain News: Elected McKinley
  • Oct 16: Boston Globe: Bryan the Salesman
  • Oct 17: Coming Nation: Labor Exploitation
  • Oct 20: L.A. Times: Burning Cross of Gold
  • Oct 21: The Coming Nation: Socialism
  • Oct 22: Sound Money: The Old Party Scale
  • Oct 22: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Hanna's Crown of Thorns
  • Oct 24: Harper’s Weekly: Altgeld and Guiteau
  • Oct 25: Daily Inter-Ocean: Bryan's Balloon
  • Oct 25: Omaha World Herald: Getting Women to Register
  • Oct 27: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Hanna, Trusts, and Morgan
  • Oct 28: Puck: A New Civil War
  • Oct 30: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Hanna in Lehigh Valley
  • Oct 31: Republicans announce “Flag Day,” then argue with Democrats and Populists over meaning of the flag
  • Oct 31: Harper’s Weekly: Democratic Wind-Up Toys
  • Oct 31: New York Journal: Buncombe Brigade
  • Oct 31: The Ram’s Horn: Ignorance, Stupidity, and Fraud
  • Nov 2: McKinley wins presidential election
  • Nov 2: L.A. Times: Clown Bryan
  • Nov 4: L’Abeille de Nouvelle Orleans: Knock-Out Punch
  • Nov 4: St. Paul Pioneer Press: Elephant on the Silver Pillow
  • Nov 5: Sound Money: Prediction for 1900
  • Nov 14: Judge: Republican Tam O'Shanter
  • Nov 14: Coming Nation: Our Farmers Situation
  • Dec: Overland Monthly: Uncle Sam Looks Abroad
New Spirits
New Spirits
Perceptions and Realities: The Victorian Age Inventions of the era Tramps and Millionaires Yellowstone Park Journals of the era White City/1893 Worlds Fair The Civil War President McKinley